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Major League Baseball Umpire Strikes Out in His Assertion of Union Privilege in Discrimination Claim

A Federal District Court in New York recently fielded the issue of whether there is such a thing as a union relations privilege and the extent of that privilege. In Hernandez v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball (18 Civ.No.35), baseball umpire Angel Hernandez alleged that Major League Baseball (MLB) had discriminated against him with respect to crew chief assignments and post-season umpiring assignments. There was no evidence Hernandez filed a grievance under his collective bargaining agreement regarding his discrimination claim and this was key to MLB's defense. Hernandez asserted union privilege in order to protect any discussions with representatives of the Major League Baseball Umpires Association (the "Union"). A New York District Court Judge, agreeing with the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, determined that under federal common law, any union relations privilege would only cover communications made in the context of representation by a union representative during disciplinary proceedings under a collective bargaining agreement. More ›

Hair Today…Discrimination Tomorrow? California and New York Adopt Hair Style Protections, Others Surely to Follow

On July 3, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom approved Senate Bill No. 188 providing legal protection from discrimination in the workplace and in public schools for natural and protective hairstyles historically worn by black people and people of color. This bill expanded the scope of what is considered a protected race category under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to include traits "historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles." Following California's lead, New York then became the second state to ban discrimination based on natural hairstyles on July 12, 2019, when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law S.6209A/A.7797A, which amends the Human Rights Law and Dignity for All Students Act. There is now proposed legislation in New Jersey as well, modeled after Senate Bill No. 188. This means employers in other states should take a hard look at their workplace hair and grooming policies to avoid discrimination actions. More ›

“Ban the Box" Coming to the Big Apple...

On June 29, 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law that requires private employers to remove criminal-convictions questions from job applications and defer background inquiries to the point of a conditional job offer. This “Ban the Box” law prohibits NYC employers from making any inquiry or statement concerning an applicant’s arrest or criminal record until after the employer has extended a conditional job offer to the applicant. The law construes the terms “inquires” and “statements” very broadly, and also expressly prohibits searches of publicly available records and many consumer reports. More ›

Unpaid Intern is not an Employee, Cannot Maintain Hostile Work Environment Claim

A broadcast and digital journalism student began working at a Chinese-language news station as an unpaid intern. As an intern, she reported directly to the bureau chief, assisted the bureau’s reporters with shooting news footage, drafted scripts, edited videos, and appeared on camera to present certain stories. The intern sought a full-time position and was told that she may be able to obtain a permanent position later if she could obtain a work visa. More ›

NY Court: Unpaid Interns Entitled to Protections of Labor Laws

Production interns on the set of a blockbuster movie claimed that they should have been classified as employees, not unpaid interns, and filed suit against the production company. The interns did basic tasks such as answering phones, arranged travel, took lunch orders, and general office work. They claimed that the production company violated federal and New York state minimum wage laws by not paying them for their work. The interns ultimately moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether they were employees covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law, and also sought class certification. The company also filed a motion for summary judgment and opposed the request for class certification. More ›

Contractor’s Employees Deemed "Statutorily Protected Employees" and Permitted to Handbill Under new "Access Standard"

A group of restaurant employees engaged in handbilling on casino premises as a part of an organizing campaign by Las Vegas unions. Although not employed by the casino itself, the employees worked on casino property and handbilled in front of restaurants operated by their employer on behalf of the casino. The casino asked the employees to cease their organizing efforts. The employees refused, prompting a visit from the police, who issued citations and removed the employees from the premises. The employees alleged unfair labor practices against the casino. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that the casino had, in fact, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by prohibiting the handbilling and that the restaurant employees were rightfully on the property as they worked regularly and exclusively on it. In reaching its decision, the NLRB developed an “access standard,” which strikes a balance between the rights of the contractor employees and the property owner’s rights. Under the “access standard,” the property owner may lawfully exclude handbilling on its property, but only where the property owner demonstrates that the activity significantly interferes with the use of the property or where exclusion is justified by a legitimate business reason. Here, the NLRB determined that the casino failed to make the requisite showing and thus violated NLRA Section 8(a)(1) when it prohibited the restaurant employees from handbilling on the premises. Employers should be mindful that the right to organize may extend to more than the employer’s own employees, and that the employer’s contractor’s employees may be “statutorily protected” in their organizing activities.

New York, New York Hotel and Casino, 356 NLRB No. 109 (NLRB Mar. 25, 2011)

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